Trend Tuesday: Talk to me and win a shirt!

Ah, the Blog Contest. Who doesn’t love a good blog contest. You may be think from the title and first words (and perhaps the by line) that this will be a bit of biting criticism calling out the blog industry for selling it self short. Or perhaps you think it is ridiculous self promotion for our current blog contest. Well, this is neither. It is the perspective of those two people who can agree on one thing: Blog Contests work!

One of the values at Schipul is Win/Win. This means that in an interaction or agreement or business-dealing, both sides walk away feeling like they have gained something. When we do work for our clients, we earn their business, and in turn they are provided with a service they need. The Blog Contest is, on most scales, a true example of Win/Win.

The Blog owner can be seeking PR, attention, an urge for traffic, or perhaps they just have extra stuff. To accomplish their goal, they can utilize traditional advertising, but this does not always help them reach their audience in a fun and interesting way. Even online advertising can be a poor fit for the audience or the budget. The flexibility of the Blog Contest allows you to give away pretty much anything, from a Wii Fit to netbooks to cat T’s.

From the reader perspective, generally very little is asked of you. Leave a funny comment, become a fan on facebook, mention something on twitter, etc. Much of the time your odds of winning are quite good compared to a business card fishbowl or a clearing house sweepstakes. And generally there is a high amount of transparency in seeing who wins. Unless a contest gets out of hand (see Wii Fit above), then the contest is contained to the community of people who read the blog, with maybe a few outsiders who are just around for the contest.

Even after a winner is announced, many great things have happened. Either a new reader has won something, which may keep them coming back as a reader, or an old reader has won something, which rewards them for being a part of the conversation. Attention is gained at a cost (like all advertising), but in this case the readers profit, not an Ad agency. Aside from some twitter contests which can be quite annoying (i.e. planet-orbiting-berry), the old-fashioned blog contest is a Win/Win event.

In all seriousness, these contests are really good for everyone and are turning into a great advancement in online economics. The scale of costs and attention help to create a happy event for all involved. A small giveaway creates a small burst of traffic, and giving away something large can create bigger waves on the internets. As a blog creator, you control the size and expense. As a blog contestant, you can control what contests you enter, and what is worth your time/attention/info. Everyone remains in control, traffic goes up, and someone is a winner.

In the words of Michael Scott, this is Win/Win/Win. One Win for the blogger, one Win for the contestants, and a Win for me for explaining it here and encouraging you to create a blog contest. There’s another Win too if you follow me on twitter, because all of my followers are winners.

Trend Tuesday: Still Waiting til the Last Minute?

(I realize this was published later than normal.   It is part of the story.   Welcome again to another crazy JMO post.)

In the blogging world, many people teach that having posts on a regular schedule is the way to create a readership.   But this is only half of the message.   It leaves out the ‘quality’ part.   To have a successful blog, there should be a regular stream of quality posts to feed a readership.   Here is a quick list on how to have a great blog.

  1. Make a blog. (wordpress is good)
  2. Set a regular schedule you can maintain.
  3. Write a QUALITY Post.
  4. Click Publish.
  5. Repeat 3 and 4 based on 2.

Ok, so that probably isn’t the Top 5 list you were hoping to see.   Too bad, because that’s really all there is to it.

In writing this post I was almost guilty of overlooking Step 3.   When you title your blog post Trend Tuesday, you are setting yourself up for a pretty hard deadline.   And Tuesday is almost gone.   Should I just hit Publish now?   Probably not, as I haven’t finished my story yet.   So, why am I not done yet?   I’ve got some great excuses.

  1. I haven’t reached the deadline yet
  2. I work better at the last minute
  3. It wasn’t a high priority

I haven’t hit the deadline.   For this excuse, I am really blaming the deadline.   Unfortunately, deadlines have a tendency to backfire.   A week ago we set a deadline to have a new Trend Tuesday blog post done by Tuesday.   I had a whole week to get it done.   But really, by giving myself a deadline of Tuesday, I committed to doing it on Tuesday.   Because this is due in a week, it ranks behind other tasks, until Tuesday that is.   Now it is on top of the heap, but it is almost too late.   Way to avoid this: set earlier deadlines, or, if you can, do things immediately. Think of the deadline as less of a due date and more of a time to actually do it.

And anyways, I work better at the last minute.   Because at the last minute, there is added stress and pressure.   And I work great under pressure.   NOT.   At the last minute, I am forced to get things done.   Not to make them right, or even above average. And certainly not to make them spectacular.   But they do get done.   Had I made my deadline, you would have stopped reading after the Top 4 list.   That is what is produced by someone who works better at the last minute.   Way to avoid this: set standards for quality. For this post, it could be the words, time spent on it, or links.   Or it could be that I got 5 other people excited after they read it.

But the real reason I didn’t finish on time is that this wasn’t a high priority.   Unfortunately, task managers and to-do lists have this annoying priority system built in with 1-5’s and stars and red flags, etc.   I think priority is really a boolean, or an on/off switch.   Something is a priority, or it isn’t. Merlin Mann agrees, or really, I agree with him.   But when I first learned of this task, I said this wasn’t a high priority. But if this isn’t a high priority, then why am I not done yet?   It is superseded by a real priority.

The real priority is that when I publish something with my name on it, it has to be my best effort. This is the priority.   This is Step 3 above.   And this is what makes great bloggers, writers, designers, and all creators.   When I first started this, under the deadline, rushing it out, it was about 200 words of garbage.   I’ve since deleted all of that, and written all of this.   While some may argue that I was just lazy and procrastinated and that’s why this wasn’t finished, I’d have to disagree.   I set myself up for failure when I did the following:

  1. I   made a deadline that was the absolute last minute I needed to finish.
  2. I did not make this a priority.
  3. I did not start until close the deadline because this wasn’t a priority.
  4. I lied to myself about my abilities to do quality work quickly.

All of these things caused me to miss the all important Step 3.   Fortunately, the place I work is smart enough to recognize that a quality post that is late is much better than a weak post on time.   Hopefully the readers if this blog and yours are also flexible.

Recap:

  1. Set deadlines before things are really due, or just do them immediately.
  2. Don’t wait til the last minute.   Your work is not better when you do.
  3. Make quality stuff (which should be on time if you follow the first two).

Hopefully the trend of waiting til the last minute will fade like Will Smith’s hair on Fresh Prince.

Boss Blog of the Month: Bumper 2 Bumper Traffic Blog

1trafficBoss [baws, bos]
-adjective

  1. exemplifies a unique quality; awesome; incredible
  2. An expression from the mid 1950s, which fell from favor by the early 1960s….until now..

Bro, traffic blew this morning…I was 20 minutes late to work and missed donut circle time. Dude, go check out the Bumper 2 Bumper Traffic Blog, it’s so boss!

My mornings are not your typical ‘wake up, drink coffee, sit on your thrown reading a nice article about ‘Why we swing our arms when we walk‘” routine. They usually entail a Sprite on the rocks, Quaker oatmeal, and…(queue harmonious music)…KPRC’s traffic updates brought to by Jennifer Reyna. To be quite honest, I don’t really care much about traffic, my morning drive is pretty ordinary with the familiar stoplight hobo and occasional rubber necking. Basically, it comes down to the simple fact that Jennifer Reyna is so gosh darn adorable and an hour on the ol’ boob tube just ain’t cuttin’ it anymore. But I have found the light…

Jennifer Reyna’s Bumper 2 Bumper Traffic Blog is seemingly mundane, but I stand true to my word when I say this is a must-read. And I think you know where I am going with this.   That’s right my tiny cupcakes, the Boss Blog of the month is every Houstonian’s greatest foe…traffic.

This recent “find” if you will, is what I like to call a boss moment. I could equivocate this to the time your beloved Harry Potter obsessed monkey friend literally dragged you to opening night of H.P.’s latest flick, in turn leaving you with a little obsession of your own…Hermoine Granger. In a nutshell, the movie is the traffic and Jennifer Reyna is Hermoine…now you’re with me folks!

So what makes a blog about traffic so special? Go ahead and pump those breaks champ…I am going to tell you.

Here are my Top 5 Reasons why Jennifer Reyna’s Bumper 2 Bumper Traffic Blog is the Boss Blog of the Month:

  1. I really don’t have to say much here…
    Jennifer Reyna
  2. It’s rare to find true passion in a human being, much less through a traffic blog. The Bumper 2 Bumper blog exhibits just that…passion. With every post, you know Jennifer is writing from the heart. Hell, I bet she sits at her computer singing The Beatles and yelling out random sayings like, Skittleeedooo!, just because she is that happy. To be honest, I find it quite enjoyable to read about Goat Milking Contests…
    goat-_-blog4
  3. Jennifer posts pictures from just about every event she attends. I realize that posting pictures on your blog is nothing new, but for a reporter, it’s good to show people you are actually human. Like I have said before, I just don’t trust robots and neither should you if you know what’s good for your children.
  4. 2-crew-parade-_-blog
    She listens. Every few posts, she takes questions that she has received from her viewers and answers them openly and honestly.

    Dear Jennifer,

    Could you please tell me why we swing our arms when we walk? Also, thank you for being you.

    Sincerely,

    Courtney P.

    I will be crossing my fingers for a response in the meantime.

  5. Jennifer has obviously realized that KPRC is not just a TV station. It is a media outlet. She has enabled viewers, like me who are unable to watch a lot of television, to receive information through her blog. She has also built an extraordinary brand through her Bumper 2 Bumper blog and that is definitely something to be modeled. Jennifer Reyna is not only an inspiration to the Houston community, but she has made my morning commutes a little more enjoyable. Jennifer Reyna…you’re boss.

Say hi to Jennifer on Facebook!

Thank you Kim Yokota for the awesome traffic pic!

Safety Month: Hurricane and weather Blogs to know

accuweather_hurricanetracking

Ah hurricanes, they’re not just for sipping on in New Orleans .   If you’re in a hurricane-effected area like we are (in Gulf Coast neighboring Houston!), you’ve probably already been talking about the possible rains, winds and candle lit evenings ahead with neighbors, family and co-workers.

With that in mind, here are a few of our favorite hurricane and weather blogs – that’s right, we geek out on weather too:

The WeatherMatrix (one of many Accuweather.com Blogs)
You can really tell when a Blogger is passionate about his subject matter and Jesse is SERIOUS about weather.   One big bonus on The WeatherMatrix’s Blog is that it’s not only packed with tips, national weather updates galore – it’s always full of gorgeous weather-related visuals, photos and projections.      If the WeatherMatrix Blog isn’t enough for you, there is also an entire WeatherMatrix community for weather enthusiasts.

WunderBlog
Weather Underground’s co-founder Jeff Masters writes up the world’s weather as he sees it.   Twisters, climate change and more.   Perhaps what’s even more interesting than Jeff’s posts are the incredible number of comments and intensely focused contributions from www.wunderground.com members.

WeatherBlog for ABC13
While this is technically a local Houston weather Blog, you’ll find all sorts of great weather-focused posts on topics like the Saffir-Simpson Scale re-vamping, hurricane workshops and NASA-TV.   Great weather brain candy.

Cloudy and Cool
Meteorologist Paul Yeager unleashes his weather brain power on this great Blog, featuring everything from 2009 hurricane season predictions to commentary on global warming to reminiscing on impactful weather events from his career.

Where do you get your weather fix?   Be sure to comment on our Schipul Book Club post this week for a chance to win an emergency kit and a copy of The Survivor’s Club.

Image above thanks to Jesse – every single hurricane worldwide from 1851 to 2007, colored by intensity when known.   Visualization at its finest!

Boss Blog of the Month: Neurofibromatosis Cafe

reggie-bibbsBoss [baws, bos]
-adjective
1. exemplifies a unique quality; awesome; incredible
2.   An expression from the mid 1950s, which fell from favor by the early 1960s….until now.
Hey dude, do you know Reggie Bibbs? I heard his blog is so boss.

As I stand sit here, amongst a sea of people, adorning my wizards’ cloak and wand, I feel the need to rise up…for today marks the start of something glorious! No, they have not finally captured the French Big Foot named Clouseau and put him on display in Canada. Come on dude. This friends, is the beginning of a new era…a place where bloggers can be exalted for a job well done. A place where I can sit here every month and say…This Blog is So Boss.

Like all historic revolutions, I must start out with a bang followed by a little pow. Hell, let’s throw in a 540 tornado kick, landing in a roundout back flip – blindfolded. It’s true, some blogs just have that affect on people, and ninja moves aside, I am honored to feature a local Houston blog, ‘Neurofibromatosis Café” as the boss blog of the month.

So what you’re saying is there’s a new place in town for coffee and tweet-ups? Coffeegroundz what? Unfortunately no… but there is a man named Reggie Bibbs.   Reggie was born with neurofibromatosis (NF) which is a genetic disease that causes him to develop tumors on his body. He began this blog, along with long-time friend Lou Congelio, president of STANANDLOU Advertising, to spread the word of NF.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Reggie and it became one of those moments where you think to yourself…so this is what life is all about. His passion and spirit were infectious as he spoke about what his blog has provided for people.

‘I believe my blog has helped others to realize that things aren’t as bad as they seem. If I am out and happy with my problems, then others should be to. It is an encouragement to people with NF and without NF.”

So how did Reggie’s blog become what it is today? Reggie explained to me that it was after his brother, Ronald, lost his life to NF that he was not going to let anyone else go through what his family had to endure. Teaming up with Lou, they created the Just Ask T-shirts…

‘I had the shirts made so people would ASK when they saw me. People wanted to know, but I felt like they didn’t know how to ask. After the shirts, Lou suggested a blog to write about my experiences.”

And as they say…the rest is history.

The Just Ask campaign went on to win 2 gold ADDY awards, one silver, and a Special Judges Award for Public Service Advertising. I would never claim to be an advertising genius, or a pro unicorn jouster for that matter, but I do know that the Just Ask ads were absolutely spectacular and the well earned recognition could not have happened to a better guy…that’s you chief.

Reggie is also lucky enough to have Lou, along with two other of his close friends, William and Matt contribute to the blog. These guys have not only helped document Reggie’s experiences but they have played a huge part in bringing NF to the forefront.

‘These guys mean the world to me. Without them, I would not be able to do what I do. They are the friends that encourage me to get out there and do things. When Lou talked me into going to the Astros game, it was something I will never forget. It was a full house…everyone was so nice to me and because I took that step, I felt like I could go other places.”

No doubt about it, Reggie has definitely become the man about town. Through his blog posts, you can see what an impact Reggie is making in the community. He has spoken across the country for other NF Foundations where his most recent trip was to Grand Rapids…next stop…Canada. Here’s a fun fact: I am a ninja and can fit in medium-sized suitcases; specifically designed to fly to Canada…I’m just sayin’.

When he is not traveling, you can see him at the Houston Roller Derby, meeting with political figures, chummin’ it up with Kevin Nealon, starting the dance revolution at Music Nites…really, the list goes on and to be quite honest, I’m not yearning for carpal tunnel anytime soon so I will bid adieu. But before I… ‘do,” I want to leave you with one final thought from a man who used something as simple as a blog to create a movement and therefore inspire others to simply be thankful.

‘People who have NF come to my blog to read my stories and learn that even if you have NF, you can still live a full life. They see that I have learned that most people will understand…the ones that don’t, that’s ok. Think about the people that have accepted you.”’Reggie Bibbs

Other Ways to Connect with Boss-Blogger Reggie Bibbs:

Reggie Bibbs-Neurofibromatosis Flickr stream

Visit Reggie Bibbs on Facebook

*The photo was apart of the award-winning ads recognized at the 2009 ADDY Awards.

Thanks again Reggie! You truly are an inspiration.

Why Dale Carnegie Would Be an Awesome Blogger…

‘Did you ever stop to think that a dog is the only animal that doesn’t have to work for a living? A hen has to lay eggs, a cow has to give milk, and a canary has to sing. But a dog makes his living by giving you nothing but love.” ‘Dale Carnegie

A few full moons and a gibbous ago, my boss Aaron Long handed me a book to read, How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. My first thought was, ‘Does this silly elf think I have no friends? The nerve!”

On that note, name-calling does not get you friends. Instead, it will give you a cafeteria table all to yourself, unlimited movie nights alone, and ample time to catch up with your imaginary friends named Toffice and Skidmore. Livin’ the dream right? But I digress….

Come to find out, elves have terrific taste, and I haven’t put the book down since the waning gibbous moon.

So who is Dale Carnegie and why do I believe that if he was still alive and kickin’, he would be one of the greatest bloggers of our time? Dale Carnegie is your classic rags to riches tale. Grew up on a farm in Missouri, walked uphill to and from school, became a public speaking teacher, wrote a book blah blah blah. Don’t get me wrong, the man’s life is one to be marveled at. But more importantly, he lived his life with a genuine interest in other people. He realized the value in this notion and put it on paper to benefit humanity. I kid you not, after reading his book I answered all my phone calls with a huge smile, listened attentively during conversations and proceeded to rescue every stray dog that came in my path. No cats though. I have built up animosity towards them due to all the ‘deposits” they leave in my backyard on a daily basis. I didn’t say Carnegie’s book made me perfect ok?

What I am saying is if Carnegie was still around, I would invite him to come have a beer, watch a Dallas Cowboys football game, and discuss his latest blog on why ‘a man without a smiling face must not open a shop.” So without further a due, here are the top 5 reasons why Dale Carnegie would be an awesome blogger:

  1. Even in 1936, Carnegie’s network of friends was unparalleled. Imagine discussing Pearl Harbor while sipping tea with Franklin D. Roosevelt, running lines with Clark Gable, sailing the Pacific with Martin Johnson or debating the manufacture of steel with Charles Schwab. Granted the locations are questionable due to my vivid imagination, but Carnegie’s connection with these prominent figures were real. A successful blog has an immense following…Carnegie had this following without [gasp] the internet.   Carnegie discovered from personal experience that ‘one can win the attention and time and cooperation of even the most sought after people by becoming genuinely interested in them.”
  2. Carnegie wrote stories…excellent stories. He knew how to ‘bait the hook to suit the fish” if you will. Aren’t blogs essentially a compilation of news, recent happenings, daily occurrences, and stories? Alright then, I rest my case.
  3. Remembering people’s names was of utmost priority for Carnegie. This leads me to believe that he would have done quite well on a network such as Twitter; @dcarnGmoney perhaps? Responding to people by their name, replying on Twitter, and commenting on blog posts once again reinforces Carnegie’s idea that if you take interest in someone they will take interest in you. Why not give a little smile and a wink while you’re at it, even if it’s only an emoticon. We all know Carnegie would have ;-).
  4. Dale Carnegie ‘hustled.” To put it simply, he worked his derrière off. Carnegie started with a set of rules on a note-card; evolving fifteen years later into a best-selling book and continues to influence people decades later. Over 15 million copies of his book have been sold and if there was a way to configure that into number of followers on a blog I would. I’m no scientist but I’m sure the data would be staggering. Modernly speaking, ‘…you too can have 70,000+ readers and write your own ticket to internet fame’ but it won’t happen by playing World of Warcraft every night.” Chris Guillebeau, ‘How to Be Awesome”
  5. In the words of someone who truly understood the art of human relations, Carnegie said’…the royal road to a person’s heart is to talk about the things that he or she treasures most.” I don’t think I need to thump you on the head to understand this one. Carnegie would have been an awesome blogger.

*I also feel he had excellent music taste but I will leave that for another day.

Thanks Mexicanwave for the cool flickr pic!